Vincent Robert Chinchen

Vincent Chinchen was born in Sydney in 1892 to Catherine and Robert Chinchen.

Vincent was working as a labourer at the time of his enlistment, on 25 November, 1914. The First World War had been declared only three months before, and he had been living in the Cumberland County of New South Wales. He was 22 years old.

Vincent was posted to the 1st reinforcements to the new 7th Light Horse Regiment. He was based at the Liverpool Training Camp in western Sydney, and was later transferred to Holsworthy camp. Recruits were drawn from throughout New South Wales and many had previously served in the Light Horse Militia. Vincent had not served in any such militia. According to an Australian War Memorial record regarding light horsemen:

All were horsemen of various degrees of excellence; not mere riders of educated horses, but men who had from their school-days undertaken, as a matter of honour and pride or of necessity, the breaking and backing of bush-bred colts and the riding of any horse that came their way. Their horsemanship came next to, if not sometimes before, their religion"

After their training period, Vincent and other recruits from the 7th Light Horse Regiment embarked from Sydney on HMAT A35 Berrima on 19 December 1914. Aside from drill, lessons, and frequent exercise the men on board the ship looked after their horses and kept themselves otherwise entertained playing cards, exercising, taking lessons, doing drill and organising regular boxing tournaments. They finally arrived in Egypt in February 1915.

While the infantry was sent to Gallipoli the light horse units were not considered suitable for combat duties there due to the hilly terrain. However, in May 1915, troopers were deployed to the peninsula to fight, unmounted.

In June 1915 Vincent was wounded in the right forearm by shrapnel, which caused a compound fracture to his right forearm. He was evacuated to the hospital ship HMHS Devanha, which initially took him to the No.2 Australian Stationary Hospital at Mudros before transporting him and other wounded to a hospital in Cairo. He rejoined his regiment at the end of August 1915, helping defend the Anzac line until the evacuation in December 1915.

Back in Egypt, the 7th Light Horse Regiment became part of the Anzac Mounted Division under the command of Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel. In August 1916 the division was involved in the battle of Romani. There the allies had cut off access to all wells east of the Suez Canal, and knew that the Turks would have to come through Romani for access to water. On the second day of the battle the 7th Light Horse Regiment, as part of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, advanced towards the Turks on foot with bayonets drawn. The success of the battle was the beginning of the allied forces' plan to push the Turks out of Egypt and into Palestine. There were 1,100 allied casualties and approximately 8,000 Turkish casualties, of which half became prisoners of war.

Vincent, though he may have performed well on the front line, was not always a model soldier. He was, at times, absent without leave; he once refused to obey an order; and on one occasion was insolent to an NCO.

Vincent and his regiment went on to push the Turks back after the fall of Gaza in 1917, which led to the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917.

On 16 November 1918 Vincent embarked from the Suez for Australia on "1914 leave". He arrived home in December, after four years of war. He died in 1960, aged 67, and was buried in the Woronora Cemetery in Sutherland.

Activities for research and classroom discussion

  1. Create a past for Vincent Chinchen, with a narrative about Vincent's life either before he enlisted or on returning from the First World War. Vincent was living in the Cumberland County of New South Wales at the time of his enlistment and his mother is listed as living in Ultimo, in inner city Sydney. Cumberland County included the Woronora area, an area of bushland surrounded by urban development. It also includes the Sutherland area, where he was buried.

  2. What is a "compound fracture"? Write a diary entry pretending you are Vincent and have just had your right arm fractured. What are your experiences during your recovery? What are the conditions like – the food, your accommodation, the conditions at the No. 2 Stationary Hospital and at the hospital in Cairo? What are your fears for the future considering your right arm has been so badly fractured? You might imagine you are a patient in one of the tents in the image below. Here is some helpful information relating to the experiences of nurses at No. 2 Stationary Hospital.

Marquees and tents being erected to house No 2 Australian Stationary Hospital.

3. Locate Gallipoli, Mudros, Cairo, Romani, and Jerusalem on a map. Create illustrations and write captions showing what Vincent did in each place.

4. With help from the diorama below, which shows light horsemen fighting at Romani in August 1916, research the term "mounted infantry". Did light horsemen fight on horseback, or did they dismount to fight? Who would hold their horses? For a closer look, click on the link in the description box below.

The diorama shows the Australian counter-attack against the Turkish forces on the long dune of Mount Meredith on 4 August 1916. It records a turning point in the operations of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. The Turks were defeated and as a result their advance through the Sinai towards the Suez Canal was checked.

5. What was "1914 leave"? Read about it here. Why did men wear 1914 Anzac leave rosettes? Draw an illustration of the 1914 Anzac leave rosette. You could write a poem next to your rosette describing how you would feel after serving in the light horse for four years.